Archive for November, 2011

ECDC publishes the monthly measles monitoring report for October 2011

Sunday, November 27th, 2011 (last updated)

Since the last European monthly measles monitoring report (EMMO) published on 18 October, over 1 000 new measles were detected in the EU and EEA/EFTA countries. This brings the total number of cases in 2011 to more than 30 200.

No new measles outbreaks were reported from EU and EEA/EFTA countries during October 2011. Two cases of subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), one of whom died, were reported in October 2011. SSPE is a late fatal complication of measles infection.

Measles, a highly infectious vaccine-preventable disease, is re-emerging in Europe. Countries within the European Region of the World Health Organization, which include EU and EEA/EFTA countries, have committed to eliminate measles by 2015. Elimination of measles requires sustained vaccination coverage above 95% with two doses of a measles-containing vaccine (MCV).

ECDC is monitoring measles transmission in these countries and produces epidemiological updates. The EMMO aims to provide timely public updates on the measles situation in Europe for effective disease control measures, and in support of the common 2015 measles elimination target.

In September 2011, the coordination of surveillance of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases was transferred from the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark (the former EUVAC.NET hub coordinator) to ECDC; the EUVAC.NET website migrated to ECDC and is now maintained and moderated by ECDC. In October the EUVAC.NET Forum was replaced by EPIS–VPD, an ECDC-moderated platform for the rapid exchange of confidential information on vaccine-preventable diseases.

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Viewpoint: Pox by post: anti-vaccine moms are the new bioterrorists

Friday, November 25th, 2011 (last updated)

Would you swap spit with a stranger you know has a disease linked to severe skin infections, pneumonia, swelling of the brain and, in some cases, flesh-eating disease and death?

The latest rash of parents sending chicken pox-infected lollipops or “pox packages” through the mail shows the irrational and dangerous extremes to which parents will go to avoid vaccinating their children.

These pox-swappers connect on Facebook and online parenting forums to request saliva, infected lollipops and clothing from other families in the hope of immunizing their children the “natural” way. But the only thing that the anti-vaccine mob seems immune to is common sense.

Not only are these families endangering their own children, they’re also risking the herd immunity that protects us all from preventable, but potentially life-threatening diseases.

The chicken pox vaccine was first authorized for use in Canada in 1998, and like all authorized vaccines, it went through several stages of rigorous testing to ensure its safety and efficacy.

The side effects of the vaccine – typically mild fever and a rash, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada – seem trifling compared with the hundreds of blisters that attend a normal case of chicken pox.

Add to that the potentially fatal complications of contracting the virus and it’s hard to understand why people refuse to vaccinate their children, let alone give them diseased lollipops that could be coated in any number of other dangerous pathogens.

Some argue the vaccine isn’t 100-per-cent effective at preventing future cases of chicken pox, but neither is contracting the virus.

The difference is that those vaccinated people who do get chicken pox later experience much less severe symptoms than unvaccinated people.

Deaths from chicken pox have plummeted since the vaccine was introduced in Canada. The most recent data indicate only six deaths occurred between 2000 and 2005. Previously, that many deaths occurred each year.

Meanwhile, allowing the wild virus to continue circulating reduces Canadians’ herd immunity. Herd immunity rests on the principle of safety in numbers; if more people in a population are immune to a certain virus, more people, even those who aren’t immune, are protected from the disease.

Population-wide immunity is crucial to protecting vulnerable people who, for medical reasons, are unable to receive the vaccine.

Transporting viruses is highly regulated in North America for this reason and people who flout these laws for their own selfish reasons are arguably engaging in bioterrorism.

A commenter on the Mothering.com forum tried to warn her pox-posting compatriots that “one of the mail workers in between both of you could be (immune) compromised” and contact with the virus could be “very bad for them (and might) even kill them.”

But of course, mommy knows best. Another poster on the forum snapped back that the virus would be “completely sealed” in a plastic baggie and therefore pose no risk “unless they hacked into the package.”

What’s really scary is that it’s not just chicken pox these parents are trading – posters on some forums have also requested diseases such as measles and rubella.

It’s time Canada implement mandatory vaccination policies such as those implemented in Belgium, where polio vaccination is compulsory.

Some Canadian provinces, such as Ontario, already have policies in place that make up-to-date vaccination a requirement for public school attendance.

Enforcing these policies and instituting them countrywide could be an easy way to ensure we stamp out the real threat to our children’s health – ignorance.

Source:
Lauren Vogel – Centretown News

Delivering a Dengue vaccine: a WHO initiative helps lay the groundwork for Dengue vaccine introduction

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 (last updated)

In addition to developing sound evidence for informed decision-making, DVI (Dengue Vaccine Initiative) is striving to conduct policy and access related activities to create an enabling environment for the introduction of a future dengue vaccine. The World Health Organization’s Initiative for Vaccine Research (WHO IVR) is one of the DVI consortium members working towards this objective. Originally designed by the WHO and UNAIDS, the initiative is positioned within the Family and Community Health Cluster at the WHO. The unit’s mission is to accelerate the development and optimal use of safe and effective vaccines and technologies, especially in developing countries. The WHO IVR has expertise in the field of product R&D, vaccine manufacturing and regulation, vaccine clinical trial, vaccine introduction and cost-effectiveness analysis.

WHO IVR’s primary function within DVI is to lead the development of information and guidance documents, and in regulatory training activities. WHO IVR is currently preparing an information session on a dengue vaccine for the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on immunization. SAGE advises the WHO on overall global policies and strategies. The information session regarding a dengue vaccine will pave the way for the development of a framework for an eventual SAGE deliberation. This will lead to the publication of a WHO Position Paper on dengue vaccines. A WHO Position Paper would substantially legitimize the call to include dengue vaccines in public vaccination programs.

Other key activities include designing a guide on the safety monitoring and post licensure evaluation of the new dengue vaccine. In conjunction with IVAC (last week’s DVI consortium member), WHO IVR will support regulatory preparedness in countries hosting dengue clinical trials and countries likely to quickly adopt the vaccine.

Given its extensive infrastructure and network of engagement with ministries of health and national immunization programs, the WHO and its Regional Offices maintain the ability to raise visibility of dengue on global, regional and country levels. This unprecedented influence will be essential to guaranteeing that the world’s most vulnerable populations have access to a future dengue vaccine.

Source:
Sabin Vaccine Institute

Immunization in teens: good news, bad news

Sunday, November 20th, 2011 (last updated)

Dr.Paul Offit, MD, asks why we are “raising a generation of girls who are susceptible to cervical cancer even when we have the technology to prevent it.”

Belief in vaccines waning for doctors & parents

Friday, November 18th, 2011 (last updated)

The results of two surveys presented at the 2011 Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) meeting highlighted ongoing issues in the belief systems of physicians and parents about pediatric vaccines.

A survey of 551 primary care providers found that younger physicians were more likely to believe that vaccines do more harm than good. Recent graduates from medical school had 15% lower odds of believing that these immunizations were efficacious compared with their older counterparts (abstract 324).

“What we found was that overall support for vaccines remains high in both old and young physicians at about 81%; however, on a relative scale, we were able to pick up subtle but statistically significant signs of a differential cohort effect related to vaccines,” said Saad Omer, MD, assistant professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, during a press briefing at IDSA.

Younger physicians also were 20% more likely to believe that the vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella are not safe.

Survey participants were stratified into five-year blocks according to their year of graduation from medical school. A logistics regression method was used to find relationships between physician beliefs and age.

Dr. Omer initially was interested in researching this topic to investigate whether some of the anti-immunization beliefs of parents were shared among physicians.

The cause of the cohort effect they observed may be the result of widespread immunization efforts during the 20th century. “Vaccines have been so effective that many of these diseases have fallen off the radar of younger physicians,” said Dr. Omer. “If you have never treated a case of whooping cough, that can impact both the individual’s and institution’s priorities.”

A separate online survey conducted with members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAPA) from nine midwestern states investigated how physicians deal with parents who refuse vaccines or alter the recommended schedule for their children.

The results from 909 pediatricians showed that they use a variety of methods to persuade noncompliant parents: 95% discuss vaccine options and benefits with the family, 66% refer them to relevant Web sites and 63% provide evidence-based literature (abstract 634

Source:
IDSA & Infectious Disease Special Edition

GAVI’s new rubella funding will protect hundreds of millions against measles and rubella

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 (last updated)

Do you know the rubella vaccine? It’s the “R” at the end of MMR – the combination vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella that has protected millions of people globally from illness and death.  Most people reading this would have been vaccinated against rubella as a baby or possibly in adolescence.  You might also know rubella as “German measles”.

Rubella infection is actually quite mild for most. However it can be a tragedy for a pregnant woman, causing serious lifelong birth defects for her newborn including heart problems, blindness and deafness. These complications are known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome, or “CRS”.  In 2008 an estimated 112,000 babies were born with CRS, and most of these kids live in the poorest countries.

But there is an exciting breakthrough today. At its meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the GAVI Alliance board announced a new opportunity for these countries to receive funds for combined measles and rubella (or “MR”) vaccination campaigns.  GAVI projects that up to 30 countries will apply and that by 2015 an additional 588 million kids will be vaccinated against measles and rubella.

“Funding from the GAVI Alliance for measles and rubella vaccine campaigns will help countries to rapidly scale up introduction of rubella vaccine, protect their populations and contribute to the elimination of measles and rubella,” said Dr. Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of Immunization, WHO, in a statement on behalf of the Measles Initiative.

The Measles Initiative has already provided more than 1 billion measles vaccines and contributed to saving 4.3 million lives. Countries of the world aim to reduce measles-related deaths by 95% by 2015, and many regions have rubella control goals. The circulation of measles and rubella viruses can be completely stopped if the vast majority of people are protected with the MR or MMR vaccine. If you live in the Americas you won’t have seen a native rubella virus for a long time – the region is in the process of confirming rubella’s elimination.

Now poorer countries will have the chance to apply for GAVI funds to vaccinate their young people in nationwide  measles and rubella campaigns. The Measles Initiative looks forward to working closely with these countries and GAVI on this exciting new chapter in global health. Three cheers for the R!

Source:
The Measles Initiative

Find out 3 of the biggests myths about vaccines

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 (last updated)

Seth Mnookin – author of ‘The Panic Virus’ – reveals three of the biggest myths about vaccines and their effect on children.

Chicken pox parties is “middle ages vigilante vaccination”

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 (last updated)

If you think buying a lollipop contaminated with saliva from senders whose children are infected will protect your kids from chicken pox, think again – because it probably won’t. More likely, you will be exposing them to more serious infections, such as hepatitis. A US attorney in Nashville, Jerry Martin, said not only is it unsafe to mail such contagious items, it is also illegal.

After being interviewed by WSMV-TV regarding virus exchanges in Tennessee via online social media websites, Martin decided to speak out.

According to WSMV-TV, a woman in Nashville, Tennessee was sending parents chicken-pox lollipops she claimed were contaminated with her sick children’s saliva at $50 dollars per lollipop.

Some people are under the mistaken idea that by doing this they will expose their children to chicken pox virus, thus bypassing the need for the formal vaccine. The parents, virtually all of them lay people, believe that this method is more effective and safer than receiving a vaccination. There have been other similar parties in the past for such diseases as measles. If a child has the disease earlier in life, there is a smaller risk of complications, compared to adults who get the diseases. This is true for hepatitis A, mumps and chicken pox, and some other diseases.

The problem with ‘inoculation parties’ organized by lay people without any public health authority cooperation or supervision is quality control (e.g. accidental risks from shipping), lack of efficacy statistics, and the likelihood of unexpected infections. Pediatricians say children exposed to such practices have a higher risk of developing encephalitis and group A strep.

Most health care professional see this as utter lunacy. Other scientists say it is simply a scam for making money and taking advantage of gullible people.

WSMV-TV’s Channel 41-Team discovered a network of adults who deliver diseases to each other. Termed “Chicken Pox Parties”, parents organize get-togethers through social media sites, such as Facebook, with the aim of exposing their children to viruses so their immunity protects them early in life. Doctors, immunologists and virologists say this is an extremely dangerous practice for the children and also their families.

If you think buying a lollipop contaminated with saliva from senders whose children are infected will protect your kids from chicken pox, think again – because it probably won’t. More likely, you will be exposing them to more serious infections, such as hepatitis. A US attorney in Nashville, Jerry Martin, said not only is it unsafe to mail such contagious items, it is also illegal.

After being interviewed by WSMV-TV regarding virus exchanges in Tennessee via online social media websites, Martin decided to speak out.

According to WSMV-TV, a woman in Nashville, Tennessee was sending parents chicken-pox lollipops she claimed were contaminated with her sick children’s saliva at $50 dollars per lollipop.

Some people are under the mistaken idea that by doing this they will expose their children to chicken pox virus, thus bypassing the need for the formal vaccine. The parents, virtually all of them lay people, believe that this method is more effective and safer than receiving a vaccination. There have been other similar parties in the past for such diseases as measles. If a child has the disease earlier in life, there is a smaller risk of complications, compared to adults who get the diseases. This is true for hepatitis A, mumps and chicken pox, and some other diseases.

The problem with ‘inoculation parties’ organized by lay people without any public health authority cooperation or supervision is quality control (e.g. accidental risks from shipping), lack of efficacy statistics, and the likelihood of unexpected infections. Pediatricians say children exposed to such practices have a higher risk of developing encephalitis and group A strep.

Most health care professional see this as utter lunacy. Other scientists say it is simply a scam for making money and taking advantage of gullible people.

WSMV-TV’s Channel 41-Team discovered a network of adults who deliver diseases to each other. Termed “Chicken Pox Parties”, parents organize get-togethers through social media sites, such as Facebook, with the aim of exposing their children to viruses so their immunity protects them early in life. Doctors, immunologists and virologists say this is an extremely dangerous practice for the children and also their families.

Proving Dr. Wakefield wrong: stop worrying about the vaccine-autism link, study found that autistic children have more brain neurons

Friday, November 11th, 2011 (last updated)

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting about one in 110 U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though the disorder itself is well characterized, its cause has eluded researchers for decades. However, a new study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association brings us one step closer to understanding the possible mechanism by which autism manifests itself.

After analyzing postmortem brain tissue from seven boys with autism and comparing these samples to six boys without the disorder, researchers from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine found that the autistic boys, on average, had 67 percent more brain neurons. The excess neurons were found specifically in the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain responsible for complex thoughts and executive function. While developing children have about 1.16 billion neurons in this region, the study found that autistic children have about 1.94 billion.

Since neurons are generated only between weeks 10 and 20 of pregnancy, this finding suggests that whatever leads to autism must begin in utero. As ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom notes, “At least people can stop worrying about the vaccine-autism link and finally begin to understand that vaccines are not the culprit here.”

Though the current study was small and preliminary, it builds on earlier research that has also documented “brain overgrowth” in autistic children. Now the next step, according to study author Dr. Eric Courchesne, is to “find out what genes or what in utero, non-genetic conditions lead to an excess number of neurons.”

Source:
American Council on Science and Health

Cervical cancer vaccines may cut need for screening

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 (last updated)

Using GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix vaccine to protect girls against the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer is so effective that health authorities could reduce the need for later cervical screening, scientists said on Wednesday.

Researchers from Finland and the United States who published two studies in The Lancet Oncology journal found Cervarix “offers excellent protection” against two key strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly when given to young adolescent girls before they become sexually active

The studies also found the vaccine partially protects against several other cancer-causing HPV types that it is not specifically designed to target, giving protection against a group of strains that together cause about 85 percent of cervical cancer worldwide.

“Provided that organised vaccination programs achieve high coverage in early adolescents before sexual debut, HPV vaccination has the potential to substantially reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, probably allowing the modification of screening programs,” said Matti Lehtinen from the University of Tampere in Finland, who worked on the studies.

He said that as a result of the findings health experts in Finland, one of the first countries to introduce nationwide HPV vaccination campaigns in 2007, should consider cutting cervical screening programs down to just a once-in-a-lifetime test at around the age of 25 to 30 to check the vaccine has been fully effective.

“You should not have two measures on top of each other if one is already efficient enough,” he said in a telephone interview. “This could certainly mean lots of savings in terms of costs of screening.”

GSK’s two-strain vaccine targets HPV types 16 and 18 that are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers. Rival drugmaker Merck also makes an HPV vaccine called Gardasil which protects against 16, 18 and two other strains of the virus.

Source:
Lancet Oncology